Sport on TV: Even golf was swinging in the Sixties but it didn't help


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The Independent Online

Britain on Film (BBC4, Wednesday) featured footage from Rank's "Look at Life" sporting archives of the Sixties and included such gems as Richie Benaud on village cricket, traffic weaving in and out of the Tour of Britain peloton and Charles Palmer-Tomkinson becoming British ski champion. It's good to know that family have been a bunch of privileged layabouts for several generations.

Talking of pastimes for the idle rich, we also met Anne Sutton, a young woman who took up golf when it was opened up to a wider public in that decade. "Nearly half a million women play," says the narrator, "some with deadly seriousness, others because it gets them away from the kitchen sink". Half a century later, of course, they are still not allowed to become members at a lot of clubs.

* Just when Sir Alex Ferguson goes over the Atlantic to woo America, the US federal government shuts down. The Republican party are taking a greater risk than they could ever have contemplated in continuing to reject President Obama's healthcare reforms, because it won't be long before Fergie storms into Congress to give the "hairdryer" treatment to all those right-wingers hugging the out-of-touch line.

Fergie is a dyed-in-the-wool socialist, and it's no surprise that he chose to give his first interview since retiring to Charlie Rose on the not-for-profit Public Broadcasting Service (PBS, Wednesday) rather than the corporate behemoths as he promotes his new book. But he's not just over there on a public-relations jaunt, he is also a tourist with a deep interest in the American Civil War – the Republicans stuck to a pretty controversial policy then too.

He has visited the battlefields at Antietam, Gettysburg and Manassas, and what will really annoy him about the federal shutdown is that he won't be able to do more sightseeing, since all the staff manning the tourist attractions have been told to shut up shop.

"You're a student of the Civil War," prompts Rose, and Fergie enthuses: "Yeah, I love it!" It's an unusual answer to give about mass internecine destruction. But he never did take any prisoners, and he's in good company given that Rose's notable recent interviewees include Syria's Bashar Assad and Iran's new president, Hasan Rouhani.

Someone in the Deep South showed Fergie the battle plans of General Sherman, who was a proponent of the "scorched earth" strategy and burnt Atlanta to the ground. It's not a tactic that Fergie ever employed on the field – although Roy Keane came pretty close to it at times – and yet there is a tinge of admiration for the old soldier.

When the discussion turns to his address to Harvard Business School, Fergie says one of his principles is "Never bear grudges, that's very important". Not one to burn his bridges then, unlike Sherman. And yet you can't help thinking of names such as Keane, Beckham, Rooney… Of Beckham, he is full of praise for when he was a youngster but then adds: "His life changed when he married the, er… the girl from, er…" "Spice?" interjects Rose. "Yeah, Spice." He knows her name, but he still can't quite bring himself to say it without turning puce in the face (or even more puce, anyway).

At least viewers will have heard of Beckham, but there were plenty of obscure references. American "homemakers" might not get the concept of "throwing the kitchen sink in the last 15 minutes", and even the most devoted followers of "soccer" might struggle with a story about Sir Bobby Charlton's managerial tenure at Preston North End. The battle-scarred turf of Deepdale need not brace itself for a rush of tourists just yet.